Stories of Historial Figures
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Nebuchadnezzar (King of Babylon)
Rabbi Shaul (Saul) of Tarsus
Nebuchadnezzar II King of babylon
(c 634 – 562 BC)
Nebuchadnezzar.ogg was king of Babylon in the Chaldean Dynasty, who reigned c. 605 BC – 562 BC. He is credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. He is featured in the Book of Daniel and is also mentioned in several other books of the Bible. In contemporary Iraq and some other parts of the Middle East, he is glorified as a historic leader. Though he was known as a tyranical leader, he had an experience that changed his life. Read his account of it below:
Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream about a Tree
King Nebuchadnezzar sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world:“Peace and prosperity to you!
“I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me.
How great are his signs, how powerful his wonders!
His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations.
“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was living in my palace in comfort and prosperity. But one night I had a dream that frightened me; I saw visions that terrified me as I lay in my bed. So I issued an order calling in all the wise men of Babylon, so they could tell me what my dream meant. When all the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and fortune-tellers came in, I told them the dream, but they could not tell me what it meant. At last Daniel came in before me, and I told him the dream. (He was named Belteshazzar after my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)
“I said to him, ‘Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too great for you to solve. Now tell me what my dream means.'
“‘While I was lying in my bed, this is what I dreamed. I saw a large tree in the middle of the earth. The tree grew very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. It had fresh green leaves, and it was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. All the world was fed from this tree.
“‘Then as I lay there dreaming, I saw a messenger a holy one, coming down from heaven. The messenger shouted,“Cut down the tree and lop off its branches!
Shake off its leaves and scatter its fruit!
Chase the wild animals from its shade
and the birds from its branches. But leave the stump and the roots in the ground, bound with a band of iron and bronze
and surrounded by tender grass.
Now let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the wild animals among the plants of the field. For seven periods of time, let him have the mind of a wild animal instead of the mind of a human.
For this has been decreed by the messengersit is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world.He gives them to anyone he chooses—even to the lowliest of people.”
“‘Belteshazzar, that was the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now tell me what it means, for none of the wise men of my kingdom can do so. But you can tell me because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.’
Daniel Explains the Dream
“Upon hearing this, Daniel (also known as Belteshazzar) was overcome for a time, frightened by the meaning of the dream. Then the king said to him, ‘Belteshazzar, don’t be alarmed by the dream and what it means.’
“Belteshazzar replied, ‘I wish the events foreshadowed in this dream would happen to your enemies, my lord, and not to you! The tree you saw was growing very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. It had fresh green leaves and was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. That tree, Your Majesty, is you. For you have grown strong and great; your greatness reaches up to heaven, and your rule to the ends of the earth.
“‘Then you saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, “Cut down the tree and destroy it. But leave the stump and the roots in the ground, bound with a band of iron and bronze and surrounded by tender grass. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven. Let him live with the animals of the field for seven periods of time.”
“‘This is what the dream means, Your Majesty, and what the Most High has declared will happen to my lord the king. You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses. But the stump and roots of the tree were left in the ground. This means that you will receive your kingdom back again when you have learned that heaven rules.
“‘King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.’
The Dream’s Fulfillment
“But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’
“While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’
“That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws.
Nebuchadnezzar Praises God
“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever.
His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal.
All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him.
He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth.
No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’
“When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before.
“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.”
From: The book of Daniel, Chapter 4 in the Bible
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RABBI SAUL (OF TARSUS)
(c.5 BC - c.67 AD)
Saul of Tarsus (later known as Paul) was a Hellenistic Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, a member of the sect of the Pharisees, the son of a Pharisee, and a disciple of Rabbi Gamaliel. He was from from Tarsus (in present-day south-central Turkey. According to his own testimony, Saul (Paul)“violently persecuted” the “church of God” (followers of Jesus) until a life changing experience as he describes below:
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You may speak in your defense.”
So Paul, gesturing with his hand, started his defense: “I am fortunate, King Agrippa, that you are the one hearing my defense today against all these accusations made by the Jewish leaders, for I know you are an expert on all Jewish customs and controversies. Now please listen to me patiently!
As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion. Now I am on trial because of my hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to our ancestors. In fact, that is why the twelve tribes of Israel zealously worship God night and day, and they share the same hope I have. Yet, Your Majesty, they accuse me for having this hope! Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead?
“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers[b] there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.”
“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’
“And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”
Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!”
But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”
Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”[f]
Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”
Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others stood and left. 31 As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.”
And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”
From: the book of Acts, chapter 26 in the Bible
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Will the Real St. Patrick Please Stand Up?
by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Terrified the Irish raiders would spot him, the youth hid at wood's edge as he watched eager flames consume his family's house. Suddenly powerful hands jerked his arms behind him. Coarse ropes burned his wrists. He and dozens of others were herded to boats grounded in the cove. He was now a slave.
The sixteen-year-old watched his whole way of life slip away as the rhythmic oarbeats pushed the boats steadily west. A British nobleman's son, he'd had it easy enough. He hadn't cared much for school, preferring to go off with his friends. Christianity didn't mean much to him either. His father was a deacon in the village church, but Pat knew he held that office more for tax advantage than out of love for God.
The sound of pebbles crunching beneath the hull signaled their arrival. Yanked from the boat, he was thrust into a guarded pen to await sale.
From Slavery to Salvation
Young Patrick was finally bought by Miliucc, one of the pagan chieftain-kings. For the trip to the king's lands, the lad was assigned to a short-tempered soldier who would shout strange words, angry that Pat didn't understand. Not until they reached a crude stone barn and thatched hut did the man untie him.
The gruff king's herdsman who took charge of him didn't hesitate to curb the boy's lazy ways with a stout cudgel. Pat's job was to care for a large flock of sheep belonging to the king. Night and day he spent out on the mountain pastures. At least the sheep became his friends. Talking to them somehow soothed his heartache.
He also began to talk to the God his Christian grandfather had told him about. The despair of slavery and solitude of the mountain compelled him to reach out. "Our Father, which art in heaven," he began hesitantly, "hallowed be Thy name. . . ." The words recited in childhood now became a cherished prayer.
Later, in his short Confession, he described it this way: "Many times a day I prayed. The love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. In a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night. I used to get up for prayer before daylight whatever the weather--snow, frost, rain-- without suffering any ill effects. The spirit within me was fervent."
Six long years of servitude on that rain-swept mountain forged the boy into God's man. Then one night he heard a voice: "Soon you will go to your own country." God was speaking. The voice came again. "See, your ship is ready."
That night he fled. Assured God was leading him, Pat plunged through the bogs and scaled the mountains which separated him from the sea, avoiding roads lest he be discovered.
After a 200-mile trek he saw the ship, making ready to sail. Finding the captain, he requested passage. His family would repay the fare, Pat promised. The surly captain refused. As Pat slowly retraced his steps along the beach, he prayed again. "You led me to this ship, O Lord. I know you won't fail me now." Suddenly he heard the whish of feet sprinting in the sand behind him. "Young man," a sailor called. "The captain says we'll take you after all. But hurry! The tide is in." God had heard.
The voyage took three days, but when they landed-- probably on the coast of France--they saw no people, only a desolate wilderness. For almost a month they sought food. The pagan captain who had mocked Pat's faith finally sought him out. "You say your God is great and all-powerful? Then pray for us." Pat was bold. "Be truly converted with all your heart to the Lord my God," he answered. "Nothing is impossible for Him." Suddenly a herd of pigs scrambled across the road. The hungry seamen were faster. Food at last! Within a few days they also came upon civilization.
Before returning home, Patrick sought out the famous French bishop, Germanus of Auxerre. Here the young man he developed a lifelong love for the Scriptures which Patrick came to know so well.
When he finally reached home in Britain, "my people received me as their son," Patrick recalled, "and sincerely begged me not to leave them." But it was not to be. Late one night he beheld a vision that changed his life: "I saw a man named Victoricus, coming from Ireland with countless letters. He gave me one of them, and I read the opening words which were: 'The voice of the Irish . . .' I thought at the same moment I heard their voice: 'We beg you, young man, come and walk among us once more.'" He must return to Ireland.
Confronting the Dark Powers
When Patrick began his mission about 430 A.D., Ireland was gripped by paganism. Druid priests performed human and animal sacrifices to appease the local gods. They practiced spiritism and black magic through incantations and occult rituals. Idolatry prevailed. The Irish knew nothing of Jesus.
Patrick decided to go first to the pagan king who had enslaved him as a youth. He would buy his freedom and tell him of Jesus. But when old Miliucc heard that Patrick was coming to convert him, he gathered all his goods around him and set fire to his house as a great funeral pyre. He would die with honor in the ancient way rather than subject himself to his slave's religion. Patrick, arriving as smoke still rose from smoldering ruins, was shattered. The first Irish convert he sought had committed suicide. "Why," cried Patrick to his companions, "would this king consign himself to the flames to avoid believing at the end of his life? Only God knows."
For the demonic power over this land to be broken, a greater power must prevail. Satan had won the first round, but Patrick would challenge him at his stronghold --Tara-- seat of the high king
Loegaire and his two evil druid priests, Lochru and Lucetmael. Tara was filled with many local kings, generals, nobility, and druids who were attending the pagan feast of Beltine which coincided with Easter that year. Patrick encamped in full view of the castle to celebrate the Resurrection of his Christ.
On the eve of the pagan festival it was the custom, upon penalty of death, that the high king should light the first bonfire before any others in the land. Patrick, however, had kindled a great fire which gleamed through the darkness to the inhabitants of the plain as well as all those gathered in the hilltop castle.
"Sacrilege!" cried Loegaire. "Let him be put to death!" But the druids pronounced a foreboding word: "O king, live forever. This fire will never be put out unless it is put out this night on which it has been lit. He who lit the fire and the coming kingdom by which it was lit will overcome us all." "Not so!" shouted the king. He yoked twenty-seven chariots for the druids, kings, and other guests, and drove for Patrick's fire.
The missionary was summoned before the king. Only one man rose to honor Patrick; the rest sat in stony silence. The confrontation which followed is as amazing as Elijah's victory over the prophets of Baal.
Aerial view of the hill of Tara, where the high kings of Ireland reigned.
The druid Lochru started to insult Patrick viciously and to slander the Christian faith in the most arrogant terms. A holy boldness took hold of Patrick. His eyes locked with the pagan priest's as truth confronted darkness. Sensing God's presence he shouted: "O Lord, who can do all things, who sent me here: May this wicked man who blasphemes Your name be carried up out of here and die straightway!" An unseen Power suddenly flipped the evil priest into the air and crashed him to the ground, his skull shattering against a rock. "Seize him!" the enraged king sputtered. Patrick stood and called, "May God arise and His enemies be scattered!" Darkness suddenly fell on the camp. Confused guards began to attack one another. The ground shook and frightened horses galloped off, smashing the chariots. A terrified king knelt before Patrick, though his eyes still flashed in anger.
Easter morning Patrick and his five companions marched into the castle and entered the king's banquet hall. A contest with the remaining druid, Luctmael, ended in the magician's fiery death. Patrick faced King Loegaire boldly. "Unless you believe now, you will soon die, for God's wrath will come down upon your head." That day a broken king knelt before God's servant.
This confrontation between Patrick's God and demonic forces marked the beginning of a thirty-year mission to Ireland. Danger and hardship remained his constant companions. Many sought his life. Twice he was imprisoned by his enemies--once for two full months. Intimidated? Not Patrick. "Daily I expect murder, fraud, or captivity," he wrote, "but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty who rules everywhere."
The victory at Tara earned Patrick a reputation. Yet Ireland, dotted with scores of tiny, warring kingdoms, must be won step by step. Approaching a royal castle, Patrick would offer presents of money and fine gifts to secure an audience with the local king. Then he would tell the king and his family the wonderful news of Jesus' salvation from sin, His death on the cross, His resurrection from the dead. If the king gave his blessing, Patrick was free to preach throughout the realm. Despite fierce opposition from the druids, castle after castle became an outpost of the kingdom of God.
There was something about Patrick's exuberant faith and steadfast character that attracted these warlike kings. Once he asked Daire, king of Armagh, for a hilltop site on which to build a church. The man offered a spot on lower ground instead. Undaunted, Patrick began to build. One day Daire sent him a valuable three gallon bronze pot, imported from the Continent. "Thanks be to God," the missionary said. Daire raged when he heard of Patrick's response. "Stupid man! Doesn't he have any more grateful words for my gift than 'Thanks be to God'?" He sent his servants to demand the pot's return. "Thanks be to God, take it away," was all Patrick would say. Daire was so astonished by the missionary's humble reply that he came to the construction site himself. "This place isn't good enough for your church, Holy Man. You wanted the Ridge of the Willows? I give it to you and to your God."
Thirty years he tramped the roads and forded the rivers of that green land to see men and women "reborn in God" and come to know the Christ he loved so much. "We ought to fish well and diligently, as our Lord exhorts," he wrote. "Hence, we spread our nets so that a great multitude and throng might be caught for God."
By the time of his death he had baptized tens of thousands and established hundreds of churches throughout Ireland. Within a century this once pagan land became predominately Christian, possessing such a vigorous faith that Ireland in turn sent out missionaries to Scotland, England, France, Germany, and Belgium.
As an old man, Patrick looked back in awe.
"Those who never had a knowledge of God but worshipped idols and things impure, have now become a people of the Lord, sons of God."
The old saint died in his beloved Ireland, March 17th, about 460 A.D. The land which once enslaved him, he had set free.
Notes to the Editor
- Most of the incidents were taken from Patrick's Confession, written when he was an old man. Other events are from Muirchu's seventh century Life of Patrick. These early sources and an historical introduction may be found in A. B. E. Hood (editor and translator), St. Patrick: His Writings and Muirchu's Life (History from the Sources series; Chichester: Phillimore and Co., Ltd., 1978). I have avoided the many spurious legends which grew up around Patrick's memory over the centuries.
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